Archive for September, 2011
I cut back as much as I could to accommodate my HUGE electric bill.
In savings, although I did contribute $125, I also pulled out $482.79. I hope October is better.
The extra Roth contribution was from the bonus I received for opening a checking account with Chase. You don't see that extra income in September, because I received it in August.
In October, I am not going to mortgage chip. I am not going to contribute to my Roth (gulp). Instead, I am going to save for my new fence. My goal is to contribute a minimum of 3k to my Roth each and every year. I am at $2,950 for the year, so only have $50 to go. I will manage that, but first, the fence.
I have gotten estimates from two companies now, and I asked them to quote me 6' and 7', cedar and redwood. The lowest thus far is $1301.30 (6' cedar), which is $650.65 each. I hope my neighbor does not balk at the price, but I suspect she will. I will get a new gate at the same time which will be an additional $302.80.
Yesterday I received my "incentive" for particpating in the survey Vanguard emailed to me, a check for $25! Cha-ching!
I would like for it to be mortgage chip money, BUT, as I will spending money on my fence soon, I decided to add it to CurveBall instead.
There is not enough money in CurveBall for the fence (no surprise there since CurveBall is nearly bankrupt), so I think I will "borrow" the money from vacation savings when it is time to pay. Meanwhile, I am going to scrape every dollar into CurveBall that I possibly can. My October budget will reflect this.
My mortgage will still be there when my fence is paid for.
It was a few days premature, but since I was at my bank for a client today anyway, I emptied all but $7.00 out of my wallet, and chipped an additional $16.28 to my mortgage.
On Sunday evening, I had a very unpleasant encounter with my next door neighbor. The homeowner is an older woman (70s). Her adult son (40s) also lives in the house. They are not nice people and have a reputation in our neighborhood of being hot-headed and unreasonable. We share a common fence which needs to be replaced. I am willing, she says no. It is wood, nearly 20 years old, and full of rot.
Anyhow, on Sunday evening she came over and knocked on the door. My nephew's dog was in her backyard. It seems a fence board had fallen off and the dog had gone visiting. She claimed the dog was viciously lunging at her, which I do not believe. I do believe that she was frightened to have a strange dog in her backyard. At any rate, the dog does not belong in her yard.
So I went into my backyard to examine the fence and BF came along. The neighbor and her son were already in their backyard. Meanwhile, my nephew's dog had come home. I put two of the 3 dogs in the house, but one of my son's dogs had also decided to go visit. I called to him but he continued to stroll around sniffing in their yard.
Back story: In California, a fence along a property line is the responsibility of both parties. Last fall, my nephew inserted some 2 x 4s in the fence along the beams already there, so that we could nail fence boards to it. (The support beams running horizontally along the bottom and top of the fence are the most rotten.) It was not attractive, but it did make the fence more sturdy. This apparently was not to their liking, as they ripped the 2 x 4s out and threw the 2 x 4s into our yard. I have pictures of this.
So while we are talking to each other through the empty space in the fence, she says that I need to take better care of the fence. I state that my nephew attempted to make the fence more sturdy, but that they saw fit to rip out the 2 x 4s. They both immediately begin to smirk and say they don't know what I am talking about. Even though they don't know what I mean, the son said my nephew used screws instead of nails and he shouldn't have. Then he goes on to state that my nephew is "trashy" and he does not care for my nephew. I suppose his intent was to make me angry, but in truth I do not value his opinion.
I said that I think we should get a new fence. The mother says, quote, "This fence is just fine!" I said if it is just fine, then what are we all doing here? She says the only problem is my nephew's dog jumped on it. If the dog wouldn't jump on the fence, there would be no problem. I need to make the dog not jump on the fence. Furthermore, she is on Social Security and cannot afford a new fence. I said "Well, it's the law."
She begins to scream at me that I need to GET MY D--- DOG NOW!! (I had been calling him, but he would not come.) My BF asks if they will let him in to come and get the dog. The son says yes, so BF leaves to go to their front door, the son does too. As soon as we are alone, she begins to point her finger at me and say "F--- you! This is all your fault! You fix it NOW!!" She is lovely. Doesn't she sound lovely? I am definately putting her on my Christmas Card List.
Meanwhile, when BF got to the front door, the son refused to let him in, but said go to the gate leading to the backyard. BF walked over to the gate, the son reappeared in the backyard. BF waited then called, saying "Are you going to let me in?" The son said to me "That gate is locked". So I called to BF "He isn't going to let you in." I asked the son how he would like for us to get the dog. He suggested I remove a fence board. So, I did. It was easy, I just pulled a little with my bare hands and it popped right off. I went into their back yard, took the dog by the collar, and led him out.
The mother went back in the house when I began to enter their yard, the son remained. When I got back on my side, he says to me "So you would rather just pay for a new fence than put that board back up?" I said of course I would nail the board back but that I would like to have a good, sturdy fence, and wouldn't he? I could tell he was thinking that over, so I added "Wood fences only last so long. This fence is almost 20 years old."
So as BF and I set about reattaching fence boards, the neighbor's son comes back out and says that I should go ahead and get some estimates.
So that is where I am right now. I have one company coming tonight for an estimate and am awaiting return phone calls from 2 other companies.
This week I have chipped $0.81 from Lending Club and $8.00 from Beezag. I have received a total of $32.00 from Beezag this year, just for watching their short little video ads. I think fondly of Laura every single time I cash out.
Go away, mortgage.
Gravity certainly DOES take its toll on my bank accounts.
I have dipped into CurveBall to pay my Chase Visa balance in full this month. I went back and forth on that, then finally decided that it would be silly to not pay in full. So CurveBall is poor now. Poor, poor CurveBall.
As of this moment, I have $635.73 in checking and will deposit $226.00 tomorrow. I have paid all of my bills for the month except Citi MC which has yet to arrive. I will pay them $124 towards my debt. That leaves me $737.73 for the rest of the month. I shouldn't need more than $100 of that for groceries, so that leaves $637.73 towards my early October bills. Tight, but doable.
So far this month, I am on track with spending. So that is my silver lining. Next month's Visa bill will not be so steep, and thanks to balanced bill pay, my electric bills won't be either.
In other news, my daughter and son-in-law will be moving out of my house and into their new place on Oct 1st.
Yesterday I received a reminder email from Credit Karma. It had been a while since I had updated my score. So I went ahead and did that and their estimate of my score rose to 775. That was nice.
One thing which hurts my score is my length of accounts. They say my oldest account is 105 months, and my average age is 90 months. When I divorced, I closed all of my joint credit accounts. Two of my very oldest individual accounts were Mervyn's (1987) and Gottschalk's (1992). Since both retailers have declared bankruptcy in the past couple of years, those accounts are now closed.
The other thing which hurts my score is they insist I have a credit utilization ratio of 30%. This is not true, I have available credit of 60k or so. However, some of my cards don't report a limit, so they assume my limit is equal to the highest balance ever on the card.
Even with those little dings, I don't have any trouble obtaining credit when I want it.
Tomorrow is payday. I have just counted the contents of my wallet, and I see that I have $6.37 which will go to the bank to be swept into my mortgage.
Someday, all of these little chips should add up.
Well, I did it. I signed up for balance bill payment plans for both PG & E (gas) and my local utility (electric). With PG & E, I got to enroll right on their website, and they already told me that my bill will be $54 per month. With the local electric company, I have to mail in the paperwork and wait for them to get back to me. My last twelve bills average $193.05 (counting the last two, which are the HUGEST electric bills I have ever had in my entire life). So as long as I am in the neighborhood of $200, that will be fine.
Cash flow planning friendly, but I have resisted all of these years. I suppose I like seeing my conservation efforts rewarded in the form of a lower bill. Lately, my utility usage is out of control. Every morning when I get up and every evening when I come home, I find:
1. televisions and/or gaming systems left on, no one using
2. lights left on in empty rooms
3. the a/c turned WAAAAY up
No amount of pointing this out has any impact at all, as NO ONE does these things. Go on, ask everyone. Did you leave this on? Nope, not me. Can you please turn things off when you are done with them? I do. I always do. I NEVER leave anything on, someone else must have done it. Apparently, there is a malovelent villain breaking into my house, turning things on, and leaving, all in an attempt to run up my utility bills. It is very frustrating. I do wish the villain would GO AWAY.
I also set up my AT & T internet to bill my credit card directly. This should be good for a few reward points.
If you have a Chase Freedom or Sapphire, you can get 2500 bonus pts (worth $25) plus $5 of free stamps if you enroll in stamps.com. The first 4 weeks are free, then there is a monthly fee of $15.99.
So basically, you can have $30 at the price of calling an 800 number to cancel.
I read about this on My Money Blog.
If you are interested, log on to Chase and go to Ultimate Rewards, browse the vendors and select stamps.com.
Today is a child support check day. So when I went to the bank, I decided to "sweep" some cash from my wallet. I had $51.77 in my wallet (of my $60.00 cash allowance). I deposited $11.77 into Piddly and will transfer it to my mortgage. That leaves me $40.00 until the 15th. I will need $10.00 tonight to get my eyebrows threaded, and will hang on to as much as the remaining $30.00 as I can. I will do the wallet sweep again on the 15th.
I am off to wellsfargo.com!
Today I had an e-mail from Vanguard asking me to please take a short survey. I decided to take it. It was short, but based on my answers I was asked to take a longer survey and they dangled $25 in front of me. Yeah OK, that seems a fair trade. At the end I received a message that I will receive my "incentive" in approximately 4 - 6 weeks. So if you receive a similar e-mail from Vanguard, open that baby up.
I just redeemed some credit card rewards points for $30 cash.
On Sunday, I took my mother to visit her sister, it is about a 2 hour drive. We got an early start and made a day of it. We had a great visit, I think everyone enjoyed it. My aunt's lifelong good friend and one of her granddaughters came by, we played cards and giggled all afternoon. On the way home in the car, Mom gave me $50 to help with my OOP nephew costs. It was so nice of her, I surely do appreciate it.
So far this month I have not bought anything unplanned.
None of my mortgage chips during August were large, but together they reduced payment #358 down to $37.85. Hopefully, payment #358 will die this month and I can start whittling away payment #357.
I really like my new strategy of applying chips as they come in, rather than waiting for the next payment. There is no chance of them getting lost in the shuffle. Part of why it works so well is that my checking account and mortgage are both at Wells Fargo; I don't know if it would work so well otherwise. This month the bank's interest number was $.06 lower than my number, the result of mid-month chips. (This is not the entire amount of interest my chips saved, it is only the amount saved during the month of August.)
Lately, I feel so up in the air. I like to have a plan I can work towards, and right now I just don't know where my life is going.
As I mentioned, my next electric bill has already arrived and it is $384.98. My entire utilities budget is $400, so there is no way I will stay under that.
I considered signing up for their balanced bill payment plan, but it won't help me this month because they have already billed. I could start it next month. I don't really see the benefit of doing that, I think I would rather just leave it as it is.
So I considered fiddling with my budget, but then I decided, nope, I'm not going to do that either. Instead, I'm going to try to come in under on other categories to compensate. It's a lofty goal, but I think if I really try hard, I can do it.
My son went to the eye doctor and he needs glasses. We have to pay $150, the insurance picked up the rest. My ex-husband has already paid, so I need to reimburse him $75. That's an "everything else" item.
My daughter's birthday is Sunday, so I plan to give her some cash. That is also an "everything else" item. EE is getting very tiny, and today is only Sept 2nd!!
So as you can see, I really have my work cut out for me. All right, September, let's dance.
Everything else this month includes my car insurance, flashcards I bought to help me study ($300 + shipping from Becker, found them on eBay for $169.50 including shipping), and son's back to school expenses.
I just squeaked by on groceries, but those utilities! Waaaaahhhh! (that is me squawling like a baby) That's not even the awful part. The awful part is my next electric bill was in my mailbox yesterday. It is even bigger than the last one.